Whales play around New Zealand coast   14 Jul 2011

Whale watching is a year-round pastime in New Zealand but come winter, the popular activity takes on a more serious role, and this year a busy migration period is providing valuable data as well as entertainment.

New Zealand is known as the marine mammal capital of the world and with 15,134 kilometres of coastline there are numerous opportunities to spot mammals especially during their winter migration.

Two main species track through New Zealand at this time of the year - humpback and southern right whales.

Cook Strait survey
An official Department of Conservation (DOC) survey in Cook Strait, between the North and South islands, has shown a record number of humpback whales passing through the area this year.

Survey leader Nadine Bott said 62 humpbacks had been spotted by the team of ex-whalers, just three weeks into the survey compared to 47 for the entire survey period last year.

The 2011 survey, which began on 11 June, finished on Saturday (9.07.2011) July.

The annual poll assesses recovery in humpback whale numbers since commercial whaling ended in New Zealand in 1963. In 2005, only 18 humpbacks were recorded, and Bott says this year’s numbers are very encouraging.

Akaroa Heads
Tourism operators like Black Cat Cruises at Aakaroa, in Canterbury, have also reported increased sightings of humpbacks, which pass the company’s Banks Peninsula doorstep on their way north from the Southern Ocean.

The company says humpbacks were seen off the Akaroa heads three times in just one week delighting tourists including a group of 16 North American travel agents.

Banks Peninsula is on the direct route for Southern Ocean humpbacks as they migrate thousands of kilometres between low latitude winter breeding and calving grounds in Antarctica and sub-tropical waters of western and eastern Australia and Fiji.

Relaxed and playful
The humpback whales are well known for their spectacular breaching and beautiful complex songs and many spotted in the Akaroa Harbour have been relaxed and playful, apparently happy to be amongst the local natives - including Hector’s dolphins, the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world.

Nadine Bott said humpbacks seen in Cook Strait also appeared relaxed and playful. The whales had come in closer to shore than normal and were happy to rest and linger - more so than other years.

Clear weather and calm sea conditions had made it easier to spot whales this season and photos provided would be particularly valuable for research.

Southern right whales
The Department of Conservation has put out its annual call for members of the public to photograph and report any sightings of southern right whales, which are normally prevalent at this time of the year, and can be easily spotted because they come close to shore.

Photographs are a less invasive, less expensive way to provide information which helps with identifying whales and monitoring their patterns of movement.

Auckland and Otago universities are investigating how southern right whales move around New Zealand.

DOC says the most useful part of the southern right whale to photograph are the callosities - yellowish, raised rough patches of tissue on the head. Each whale has a unique pattern of callosities that only change very slightly over time.

Numbers down
Laura Boren, DOC’s national mammal co-ordinator says there have been fewer sightings of southern right whales in New Zealand waters this year, which is strange after high numbers during the 2010 migration season.

The reasons could be to do with unseasonal weather and the whales staying off-shore, but further answers could come to light after a New Zealand research team completes a study in the Auckland Islands over winter, says Boren.

The southern right whale migration season runs from May through to October each year. So far there have been sightings off Ruapuke Island and Dog Islands in Southland, and in Whareongaonga, south of Young Nick's Head on the western tip of the North Island East Coast region.

(100% Pure New Zealand)

Add a comment

Bookmark and Share

News

First steps taken towards flag referendum

29 Oct 2014 News
New Zealand Government Rt Hon John KeyPrime Minister Hon Bill EnglishDeputy Prime Minister 29 October 2014 Cabinet has agreed on the... more

NZ to join global crackdown on tax evasion

29 Oct 2014 News
Revenue Minister Todd McClay today announced New Zealand’s timetable for participation in a global automatic exchange of... more

Business

NZ dollar holds gains as traders await central bank meetings

28 Oct 2014 Business News
By Paul McBeth Oct. 28 (BusinessDesk) - The New Zealand dollar held gains in the local trading session as traders remain cautious... more

Orion Health seeks up to $150mln, eschews forecasts

28 Oct 2014 Business News
By Fiona Rotherham Oct. 28 (BusinessDesk) - Orion Health Group, which develops software systems for patient health management, wants... more

Living

Duo wins MKR NZ by just one point

29 Oct 2014 Food & Wine
Neena and Belinda have won the first season of My Kitchen Rules New Zealand. The "Modern Day Hippies" beat Aaron and Heather in... more

MKRNZ - The WeedEaters are cleaning up

28 Oct 2014 Food & Wine
Modern Day Hippies Neena and Belinda breezed through the semi finals last night on My Kitchen Rules New Zealand and no one could be... more

Property

Goodman Property sells three Christchurch sites for $18.9M

28 Oct 2014 Property
By Suze Metherell Oct. 28 (BusinessDesk) - Goodman Property Trust, the biggest listed property investor by market value, sold two... more

Double-digit rate increases loom

24 Oct 2014 Property
Aucklanders living in the ‘hottest suburbs’ could be the big losers, while businesses will come out winners Rate rises... more

Migration

New Zealand Named The Best Place For Raising Children

24 Oct 2014 Migration
New Zealand has been named the best place to raise a child in the Raising Children Abroad annual league table. According to the HSBC... more

Desperate employers keeping overstayers

24 Oct 2014 Migration
Desperate employers seeking to fill job shortages are keeping migrant workers who previously held a work visa in New Zealand... more

Travel

Air New Zealand's GENIUS Hobbit themed safety video

24 Oct 2014 Travel & Tourism
Giving flyers an Unexpected Journey! Elijah Wood and Sir Peter Jackson star in 'epic' Hobbit themed Air New Zealand safety video Air... more

Travel 'interns wanted' to tour 2000km of NZ

24 Oct 2014 Travel & Tourism
Forget a summer internship of fetching coffee and photocopying - a travel company is offering a $30,000, 10-day, 2000km tour of New... more

Sport

NZ Rugby League: Matagi to debut against Samoa

29 Oct 2014 Rugby League
Vodafone Warriors prop Suaia Matagi is poised to play his first test for the NZ Kiwis against his old team-mates, Toa Samoa, at... more

Cancer Society named official charity for Cricket World Cup

28 Oct 2014 Cricket
ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Cancer Society named official charity in New Zealand for ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 The Cancer Society has... more

Columns

The return of Occupy London: this time it’s truly political

28 Oct 2014 Opinion
Article - Adam Parsons The return of Occupy London: this time it’s truly political by Adam Parsons22 October 2014more

Gordon Campbell on the TPP finishing line, and Amazon’s woes

28 Oct 2014 Column
Column - Gordon Campbell Gordon Campbell on the TPP finishing line, and Amazon’s woes by Gordon Campbell If the Trans Pa... more

Kiwi Success

New Ambassador to France appointed

28 Oct 2014 Appointments
Minister of Foreign Affairs Foreign Minister Murray McCully has appointed diplomat James Kember as New Zealand’s next... more

Jim Hickey hangs up his umbrella

24 Oct 2014 People
Veteran weathercaster Jim Hickey has announced his retirement today, saying is was a tough decision. "I feel like I'm subbing off at... more

Recruitment

More than 600 take up 3K to Christchurch jobs

28 Oct 2014 Recruitment
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says the Government’s 3K to Christchurch scheme is a winner with 633 unemployed people... more

UK ambulance service poaches Kiwi paramedics

24 Oct 2014 Recruitment
New Zealand paramedics are being poached by Britain's busiest ambulance service. Interviews were held in Auckland on Friday and... more